The following letter was sent to Ben F. Johnson III, the chair of Emory’s Board of Trustees, regarding University President James W. Wagner’s column in Emory Magazine about the Three-Fifths Compromise. Two of the organization’s leaders were named Emory “history makers” in 2011.
March 7, 2013
Mr. Ben F. Johnson, III
Chair, Emory Board of Trustees
Dear Mr. Johnson:
The Open Door Community is a multiracial Atlanta residential community that has sought to dismantle racism, sexism and heterosexism for the past 31 years. We have maintained a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with Emory University throughout that history. Graduate and undergraduate classes and faculty members from Emory frequently visit our community and volunteer here. Two of our leaders, Nelia and Calvin Kimbrough, conduct university worship annually in Cannon Chapel and were among the 175 “History Makers” for Emory’s 175th anniversary in 2011. Another leader here, Murphy Davis, is working with Emory to donate her extensive papers from more than 30 years of work with the Southern Prison Ministry and to abolish the death penalty. Many of us have mentored Emory students in their quests to give back to the community and reduce the distance between themselves and the poor and disenfranchised.
Like so many others throughout the world, we are outraged by the recent lauding of the Three-Fifths Compromise by Emory President James Wagner. These statements have done untold harm to Emory University and the community it serves. This unfortunate incident is the latest in a series of embarrassing and unethical actions perpetrated by the leadership of Emory and is further indication of systemic racism that must be addressed immediately.
We would like to stress that this is not solely about President Wagner, but rather about an urgent need for intentional work on the part of Emory University toward the eradication of racism, in which all of us can play a role under your leadership as the chair of Emory’s Board of Trustees. We are also distressed about the recent department cuts at Emory, which disproportionately impact people of color. Whereas only 15 percent of the overall university faculty are of color, the affected departments contain anywhere from 20 to 48 percent faculty of color – and these decisions were made entirely by a group of eight white people.
We stand in solidarity with your students who are protesting President Wagner’s actions and demanding accountability among the leadership at Emory. We ask you to do the same. The global community served by Emory demands nothing less than leadership bound by honesty, integrity and a vision for a better world defined by justice, equality and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community.
With peace and hope,
The Open Door Community, represented by:
Mary Catherine Johnson
John McRae, Sr.